A new Alastair Reynolds novel is always a cause for celebration, even if my enjoyment of them is inconsistent. In Eversion, though space is a part of the setting, time is far more important. Reynolds takes your classic science-fiction trope of a time loop story, and he spins it just enough to keep things fresh. Thanks to Orbit and NetGalley for the eARC!
Silas Coade is the assistant surgeon (well, only surgeon) aboard the Demeter, a sailing ship bound for the coast of Norway. Sorry, a steamship bound for the coast of South America. Sorry, a zeppelin bound for—OK, that’s about all I’m going to reveal. It’s a time loop, but it isn’t a time loop. Silas lives through similar-yet-subtly-different events over and over as part of an expedition to explore a curious and alien Edifice. Each time, he dies in some spectacular fashion, and another member of the expedition consistently drops her mask long enough to reveal that she knows something about what Silas is experiencing.
The key to the success of Eversion is in Reynolds’ delight in how he describes each setting. The first several chapters of the book only ever hint at the science-fictional premise behind the events; taken separately, they are simply adventure stories about a ship on a mission for exploration and profit. Reynolds harnesses the tropes and storytelling devices in the tradition of authors like Jules Verne, creating an immersive, entertaining atmosphere with each setting Silas finds himself in. I love each of them.
Alas, Reynolds finally drops the mask and allows Silas (and by extension, the reader) to see “reality,” I as let down. I thought the twist regarding Silas’s nature to be somewhat boring. It wasn’t predictable per se, at least not for me, but I was hoping for something … deeper, I guess? The same holds true for the nature of the Edifice and its antagonistic qualities. The second half of the novel is weaker, for there is much less danger for our protagonists. It becomes a kind of journey of exposition and self-discovery—and that has merit, I would agree, but it doesn’t hold interest as much as the tension of the first half did for me.
That being said, I liked the ending and the resolution. As always, Reynolds might not consistently wow me with his stories, but he does make me think. His approach to science fiction is always interesting, thoughtful, and worth a read.